Tag Archives: district 1

Parking Wars at USF

A heated community meeting in McLaren Hall on the evening of Feb. 21 pitted the University Terrace Association of residents who live sandwiched between USF’s main campus and Lone Mountain against representatives of San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency  and local officials, including city supervisor Eric Mar, over the highly contentious issue of parking changes — including installing meters and posting time limits to the  coveted “all-day” spaces found around the edge of USF property, and changing some two-hour parking zones to one-hour parking for cars without a residential permit sticker, among other measures.

Dozens of USF neighbors overwhelmingly protested the plans presented and leveled at the SFMTA representatives accusations of conflicts of interest in planning to install the meters, revenue raising, an undemocratic and opaque approvals process, and “waging a war on cars” in a meeting that lasted much longer than its intended two-and-a-half-hour length.

Eric Mar, San Francisco district supervisor for the Richmond, made an early appearance at the meeting, speaking at some length about his political achievements and activities to an audibly impatient crowd. When he did come to the subject of parking — speaking specifically about his apparent support for a proposal to remove more than 150 parking spaces along Masonic Avenue, a UTA member hissed. Mar left at about 7:30 p.m., but not before a show of hands in the room intended for the supervisor confirmed a near-unanimous opposition to the installation of parking meters in the residents’ neighborhood.

“This is not Manhattan. This is not Paris. We don’t have a subway that was built 100 years ago. We just don’t have the density,” said the man who had earlier hissed at Mar. As a wheelchair user, he felt the direction the SFMTA was taking with the City’s “transit first” policy, especially in the agency’s scheme to increase parking regulation city-wide, was extreme and discriminating against the disabled and elderly.

Robert Francis, a resident of the Mission Bay neighborhood in eastern San Francisco, arrived in the middle of the meeting to testify that, despite local opposition to the installment of parking meters in his neighborhood, the plans went ahead with “little or no notice.”

“There’s a disconnect between what they [the SFMTA] say and what they do…The circling [of cars trying to find parking] is not going to stop. Do everything you can to fight this, or otherwise you will pay to the end of time,” he said.

Some took issue not only with the city’s parking and transit agency, but also with USF and the student population. Marie Hurabiell, who lives on Turk Street, argued the problem was that students, in addition to monopolizing the parking on the residential streets of the Terrace neighborhood, also take up most of the all-day spaces that could otherwise use be by residents and their visitors.

“USF needs to make every single parent and student sign a pledge that they will not drive a car to campus,” she said.

A separate meeting between USF and students regarding the parking changes is thought to take place in the near future, according to the SFMTA’s presentation, but at publication time, no time or date had yet been set.

Supervisor Mar Listens to Student Concerns about Pedestrian Safety

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ASUSF President Alex Platt (left of Mar), Hannah Linkenhoker (right of Mar) and members of the USF Politics Society question District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar (center) about various safety issues around the USF campus, including cars speeding on Turk St. and failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks between Lone Mountain and main campus. (Chelsea Sterling|Foghorn)

At a mid-semester USF Politics Society meeting, newly elected District 1 (which includes the USF campus and the Richmond district) Supervisor Eric Mar spoke to Politics Society members and other students about his first impressions of the job. He also participated in a question-and-answer session, in which students could present their concerns directly to their supervisor. Though Mar promised to represent USF students and the Politics Society’s main concerns- pedestrian safety on Turk Street and extension of the 5 Fulton bus service after 7 p.m.- to the board of supervisors, some students left the meeting unclear of what Mar is hoping to accomplish in District 1.

Kasie Favazza, a junior politics major , said, “I think he was here to listen to us. I didn’t leave knowing his top three priorities.” Favazza has been a Politics Society member since the spring of 2008. She appreciated Mar’s accessibility and his attendance at the meeting, but mentioned that when she tried to research Mar and his campaign, his web site was outdated.

Like several other Politics Society members, Favazza voiced her concern for pedestrian safety for students crossing between main campus and the Lone Mountain campus. The primary concern was Turk St., which currently has crosswalks, but where many drivers speed by without letting students cross. In addition, the traffic light on Turk St. and Chabot St. becomes a flashing yellow yield light after a certain hour. Hannah Linkenhoker, Public Relations Officer of the Politics Society, said of this busy intersection, “It’s problematic every day.” In response to this, Mar said, “It’s a give and take between those who want to drive and those who want public safety.” He also mentioned that neighborhood coalition groups like Fix Masonic and Walk SF could also be an outlet and forum for addressing troubled intersections. Mar acknowledged that getting issues like pedestrian safety addressed can be challenging. He said, “It’s the people who can raise their voice the loudest” that get their issues addressed.

Politics Society president and senior politics major Megan Hanley raised a second issue about safety. She asked Mar if the 5 Fulton bus service could be extended five or six stops after 6 p.m. The 5 Fulton currently drops its passengers off at Market and McAllister streets after 6 p.m. This area borders the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood. Hanley was concerned that not only were students and other passengers being dropped off in this area at night, but that younger, freshmen students may not be aware that it will drop them off before reaching Powell St. and lower Market St. Mar did not seem to be aware of this issue and said, “I will definitely bring this to them [Board of Supervisors.] This is really helpful to me.”

Mar is working on the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), which is designed to collect suggestions about improving transit and put them into action. He supports the rail systems, officially known as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), that are being built on Geary Ave. and Van Ness St. Federal and state funds are being used to build these rail lines down two of San Francisco’s busiest streets. Critics say that a BRT system for Geary Ave. will slow down the 38 Geary bus service and street traffic. Mar believes the benefits will out outweigh the traffic the rail may cause. He said that, personally, “I would like a rail system.”

Junior business major Jon Coon asked Mar if he supported the legalization of marijuana, which was part of his campaign platform. Mar replied that he does support District 13 Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s amendment to the existing marijuana laws. Ammiano’s proposal, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, would legalize recreational marijuana use to persons over 21 years old. Mar said, “I support the decriminalization of certain types of drug use.” In the same breath, he said that he also advocates for drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and programs, which seek to limit and prevent drug and alcohol addictions. Mar also said, “I think the decriminalization of some substances helps human rights.”

When sharing his first impressions of his new job, Mar said, “Being a supervisor is very difficult.” He has an eight-year-old daughter, with whom he likes to watch graphic novel movies. Balancing his back to back meetings with spending time with his daughter is one of the most challenging aspects of his new job. In addition to adjusting to his busy schedule, Mar said balancing the $6.5 billion budget is “an overwhelming responsibility.”

Junior politics major Paul Tardiff said that Mar addressed the issues Tardiff cared about, but, he said, “I don’t feel like he fully clarified what he meant.” Tardiff, a Los Angeles native, is concerned about gang activity. “San Francisco, because it is more compact, is more dangerous than Los Angeles,” he said. “The city has a responsibility to deal with gangs.” Tardiff was concerned that the San Francisco city government was pushing the responsibility of monitoring gang activity and addressing gang issues onto non-government organizations (NGOs). Mar said that he regularly checks in with Police Chief Heather Fong and tries to address her concerns about crime in San Francisco.

At the close of the meeting, Mar thanked the Politics Society for inviting him to speak. “Your ideas should drive decision-making,” he said to the 13 Politics Society members and other students. “I hope you see as a value, community-based leadership.”